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Hello! and welcome to the Adelic Language Page - or, as an Adeling might say, Vellmöst! dü teed bintde de attlðunges gæmmstadd. Hear, here!

What Inspired Me to Do This

In the first half of the twentieth century an author wrote a series of stories that would enthrall a generation of readers and inspire an entire literary genre. But he had never hoped the stories would become that popular. They were written, in the author's own words, "to provide the necessary background of history for Elvish tongues." This author was J.R.R.Tolkien, and he was, first and foremost, a linguist. Early in his life he became fascinated with language, and began to play around with creating his own languages. In time that play would grow to become, not just a hobby, but his life's work. Even though he termed it a "secret vice," it was the catalyst for his invention of Middle-earth, and all its vast history and geography were simply a setting for the languages he had created. Not only has Tolkien inspired a horde of fantasy writers, but also an increasing number of conlangers. (Conlang is the short term for a constructed language). When I first connected to the net, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my own secret vice was not really secret, and was practised as a hobby by a large number of other normal (sic) individuals. Here are some directories that point to many conlangs published on the net:

Anyway, it was after having read Tolkien in my teens that I, too, was led into the obscure art of constructing languages. I am not a linguist, but hopefully you'll find this a good offering of an artificial language. Maybe the Adelic language pales in comparison to Tolkien's wonderful work, but it is with a very gracious heart that I lift my cup of golden mead and toast the Master of Constructed Languages. Here's to the Children of Ilúvatar - may the sweet music of their speech ring forever in the airs of Middle-earth and our own World!

The Origin of Adelic

Over twenty years have gone by since I read Tolkien for the first time, and it was shortly after that I began filling up spiral-bound notebooks (intended for school work) with lists of made up words. For most of those adolescent years various methods were employed to invent words, from making them up out of thin air to simply spelling root words backwards, or borrowing Old English and Latin roots from the etymological entries in dictionaries and spelling those backwards. The language was reinvented several times, and not all the stages are now recalled. But very quickly the language became a highly inflected tongue, with endings that were basically just a cipher for Latin inflections. It remained this way, with various alterations, until around eight to ten years ago, when a taste for realism took hold of me. How could an artificial language be made to look, sound, and feel like a natural language? Well, considering the etymological method I was already using, the thought occurred to me that it should be derived from the same parent language of an existing natural language, but derived using different linguistical formulae.

The idea of an ultimate parent language, one used in the creation of the world by the gods themselves and still imbued with magical powers, is not original to me, of course. That theme has been used by fantasy authors before, but it is an inspiring one, and I would have liked to have derived my language from the original "mother tongue" of human languages. But in reality, one cannot trace modern languages back to a single source (if there ever was just one).

Most of the languages of "Western" civilization can be traced back to a common root called Proto-Indo-European (PIE). Because the founders of the modern social science of Linguistics were Western, PIE has received the most attention in the field, is the best known proto-language, and therefore has the largest reconstructed vocabulary. That made it the obvious choice for ultimate precursor of Adelic.

Now English isn't directly derived from PIE, but from a Common Germanic source that is. So I delved into what is known of the beginnings of Common Germanic to find out why its descendants differ from, e.g., Latin or Celtic, which are also descended from PIE. The most noticeable difference was a shift in the initial consonants of Germanic words. Linguists have named the mechanism responsible for it Grimm's Law.

Grimm's Law, or as it is otherwise known, the Great Consonant Shift, was exactly the thing I had been looking for. I could take this mechanism and slightly alter its effect on actual PIE root words to come up with a language that looked, sounded, and felt like a Germanic language, but was distinct!

Grimm's Law and the Other Great Consonant Shift

The following table illustrates Grimm's Law as it applies to Proto-Common-Germanic and the Other Great Consonant Shift as it applies to Proto-Dythonic, Adelic's precursor language. Note that there are three groups of original PIE consonants affected by the shifts: 1) voiceless stops, 2) voiced stops, and 3) voiced aspirants.

   Germanic   Dythonic
1  p   >   f     2  b   >   v
t   >   thd   >  ð
k   >   hg   >  j
kw   >   hwgw   >   jw
2  b   >   p        1  p   >   b
d   >   tt   >   d
g   >   kk   >   g
gw   >   kwkw   >   (g)v
3  bh   >   b        3  bh   >   p
dh   >   ddh   >   t
gh   >   ggh   >   k
gwh   >   gwgwh   >   (k)f

Using this table, one can see how the three series of consonants were affected by the Shift. In becoming Germanic, series 1 shifted into voiceless fricatives, series 2 replaced the lost voiceless stops, and series 3 replaced the lost voiced stops. However, in becoming Dythonic, it was series 2 that shifted into voiced fricatives, and therein lies the greatest difference between Germanic and Dythonic. Series 1 then replaced the lost voiced stops, and series 3 replaced the lost voiceless stops.

Why It's Called Adelic

The name of the Adelic language is a rather recent construction. For most of its existence, in whatever form, I simply thought of it as "the Language" and left naming it for later. Well later finally came, and this is how the name evolved.

After the breakthrough with the Consonant Shift from PIE, it was dubbed "Para-Germanic," indicating that it ran parallel to the development of Germanic languages. Of course this could not do as a name the speakers of a fictional world would call it, so the search for a native monicker was begun. In the end I just used the method most natural in naming languages, and that is to label it after the people who speak it. Just as English is named after the Angles, this new language would be named after . . . who?

Do you know what the term cognate means? In lingusitics, it describes two words in different languages that are similar in meaning and derived from the same root. The English word atheling has an Adelic cognate. Atheling is an old word designating an Anglo-Saxon noble or prince, and is derived from a Germanic root word *athal- which meant "from a family or race," and is in turn derived from an Indo-European root word *atos which meant something like "father." The Adelic cognate of atheling is attling and it means "one of the noble kin or tribe." Thus the language spoken by this tribe is attlisk. If you Anglicize or Germanicize the root attl-, you get adel-, and thus, Adelic. Note the kinship to the modern names Adelaide, Adeline, and Adelbert. (Emphasis is on the first syllable, not the second!)

Adelic, like English, came through stages to its present form. Unlike English, there was no Middle form; it evolved straight from Old Adelic, which was very similar, except that it had more inflective endings than modern Adelic. Old Adelic was descended from a language called High Dythonic. In its prime, High Dythonic was the prevalent language throughout much of my fictional world and, much as the Latin tongue of our world, it was the precursor to several major languages later to come. The word Dythonic is a cognate of English Teutonic; hence, it is what I used to call "Para-Germanic." And of course Proto-Dythonic came from Proto-Indo-European itself. So what we have is an artificial language that's linguistically related to real languages, both living and dead.

Try It!

Now I invite you to take some time and look over the Grammar and the Dictionary, which has both English to Adelic and Adelic to English translations. There are also some examples of Adelic in the form of written translations and commonly spoken phrases to check out. And if you're still not sated after all that, there are more esoteric pursuits, such as runes and counting by twelves...

The author would like to know what you think about this site, so please fill out the form provided. Suggestions for improvement are always welcome. You may also email him or visit his home page.

Braaf loch ! Hear, here!

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